Aziza & Urhobo Unity in 2015

Late UPU President-General, Gen. Patrick Aziza (rtd.)
Late UPU President-General, Gen. Patrick Aziza (rtd.)

This article emanated from the speech I delivered at the Urhobo Network Stakeholders Forum – “FRANK TALK 2015 AND BEYOND”, at Lagos City Hall, on the 9th of August, 2014.

This was delivered prior to the death of the President-General of Urhobo Progress Union, Gen. Partick Aziza (rtd.). I was invited as a potential Aspirant for the Federal House of Representatives representing Udu/Ughelli North/Ughelli South Federal Constituency.

Most of us are familiar with the famous quote attributed to Irish philosopher Edmund Burke (1729-1797) that “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Another sobering quote by Burke's in his 1770 publication, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents, is appropriate here. "When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."

It is my hope that we will all combine to do Urhobo good and put our detractors to shame. Consequently, I have chosen to talk about “How to Foster Unity among the Urhobos, now, in 2015 and beyond.”

I was present at the re-election of Gen. Patrick Aziza (rtd.) as UPU President General on the 7th day of Dec, 2013. A week later when he made his acceptance speech, he said as follows:

“This election is a watershed in the history of our Union; “The Urhobo Progress Union.”

It was an opportunity to take our destiny in our hands. It was a clear choice for progress and not otherwise; a choice for the unity in Urhobo land and rejection of fragmentation of our kingdoms.”

I should give you a brief background as a springboard for what I will say. I am the fourth son and 9th child of the Late Otota of Ughelli – Chief Barr. Ekuogbe Akpodiete, a one-time Magistrate Judge in the then Mid-western region of Nigeria. My mother, the late Chief Dr. Jessie Akpodiete, was one of his many wives, although my father became an actual polygamist upon their return from England.

How does this relate to Urhobos? I see the Urhobo Nation as a polygamous family. Let us see the current 24 kingdoms as sons of the same father, from different mothers. Yes, I am aware of the issues of balkanization of the Urhobo Kingdoms, but that is the subject for another day. Today, I hinge my speech on the belief that for Unity among the Urhobos, we do not need “Godfatherism, but need “goodfatherism.” I have coined that term to explain my thesis today. I don't know if the word has been used before, but I will take ownership of it today.

So, let me use my father as an example of “goodfatherism.” I spent an extensive amount of time sojourning in America and visited over 20 countries, and as a result I did not get to better understand my father until I was older. What are the attributes of this “goodfatherism that Urhobos must emulate so that unity is fostered amongst us? I will use seven – the number of perfection to elucidate my points, as follows:

1. Jettison favoritism and create the impression of transparency;

It has been rumored that our leaders practice favoritism too much and there is no transparency in the selection of elected officials. Just look at the uproar surrounding the LGA councillorship primaries two days ago and the chairmanship candidates going on today. To foster unity, we cannot allow this. Remember that “the truth is not as important as what is believed.” This is where the problem of “Godfatherism” lies. My polygamous father, somehow made it appear as though he was impartial in his decisions.

2. Reward achievement;
How do we select our representatives – those who will govern or serve us? Have you seen any of the Urhobo House of Representatives Member speak on the floor of the National Assembly in Abuja? How were they selected? Are they qualified or imposed on the masses? What are these people's educational and intellectual qualifications?

3. Banish “pull-him” down syndromes;
We seem to like to run our people down. I am all in favor of constructive (not destructive) criticisms because it is an ingredient for excellence, especially if you humble yourself. However, why do we castigate ourselves and spread vicious rumors. I have siblings that try to pull down others out of jealousy, but this did not happen while my father was alive.

4. Sacrifice personal interest at the altar of our collective interest;

In the acceptance speech, the General said, “To the core politicians in my new team, l cautions that you must put the interest of the Urhobo nation first before your political or party interest.”

I have personally observed that this is one issue that prevents unity. How do you explain the plethora of Urhobo pressure groups in existence? Usually they are all prefixed with UP, and only the third letter differentiates the (“A”, “F”, “C”, “M”). You can fill in the blank. I love the letter of Paul to the Corinthians where he states that “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12)

So, we all need each other, but must think of Urhobo interest as paramount. I refer you to my article 18 months ago titled “Urhobo Collective Agenda” that was published in various fora, including Urhobo Voice, Urhobo Times, Nigerian Voice, Pointer, etc.

5. Keep our representatives accountable.
As 2015 approaches, are you holding those you sent to Asaba and Abuja accountable? If they did not perform, don't send them back, no matter how much money they have. Don't be deceived if they are just coming this year (before election) to start doing things in the community.

6. Avoid money politics and stomach infrastructure;

I am a believer in the saying that the followership is equally to blame, as much as the leadership, for the rot in the system. If a politician buys your vote by giving you money, you are not entitled to question him after he gets into office. He has already paid for your conscience and believe me he will recoup the money a hundredfold when he gets in there. Conversely, if you invest your money and time to get him there, you can make performance demands on him. On the other hand, maybe you should still take their money and don't vote for them. Instead, consider people like me. Let him that has ears, let him hear.

7. Kingmakers must remain such and not strive to be kings.

Gen. Aziza last year talked about “respect for our elders, kings, and constituted authorities.”

I am amazed that some of our kingmakers want to be kings instead of empowering their juniors to rise to kingship. As an example, many of our so-called leaders are jostling to get into the House of Assembly, believing that the governorship will go to Delta North and they themselves will become Speaker of the House, instead of working to put their boys there. It begs the question, “If the kingmakers become king, who will be left to be kingmakers?”

I share the vison of our President General of “An ethnic nationality whose people are united politically and are socially driven by love and shared patriotism, in order to re-position its people at strategic levels of the Nigeria society; where they are well recognized and respected as key partners in the Nigeria project”

This is possible if we imbibe the above seven points. Again, we need “goodfatherism” not “Godfatherism.”

Think about it.
*Rev. Atawa Akpodiete, a public affairs analyst writes from Asaba. He is also an aspirant for Udu/Ughelli North/Ughelli South Federal Constituency in Delta State. Contact him on 08138391661 or [email protected],

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Articles by Prof. Alex O. Atawa Akpodiete, Esq.